New publication schedule -- Decision was gut-wrenching

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Recently, The Omaha World Herald made the decision to stop being "Nebraska's Newspaper," and provide same-day print delivery only as far west as Kearney and Holdrege. Lee Enterprises, the company that publishes the Lincoln Journal Star, Columbus Telegram, Fremont Tribune and Beatrice Daily Sun has announced that it will have trouble paying its debt over the next two years. The Rocky Mountain News, which was put on the sales block in early December, may cease publication if a buyer cannot be found.

Working in the newspaper industry is not a job for someone who embraces a routine. We never produce the same product twice -- each issue has different stories, photos, graphics and ads. Each day-sometimes each hour -- brings on a new challenge that Gazette staff must welcome in order to bring the important issues of the day to our readers.

For the past 85 years, the Gazette has been publishing a newspaper every Monday through Saturday. That, too, will change in the near future. We will no longer publish a newspaper on Saturdays, beginning Jan. 24.

You would think that with all the flexibility we must accommodate in our daily work lives, making a change to our publishing frequency would be an easy decision for us. It was not.

We understand that you count on us to cover the important news and events of the area. We will continue to do that. We know that you enjoy seeing your friends, family, and neighbors featured on our pages. We will continue to do that. We know that you rely on information provided in the newspaper to plan your days. We will continue to provide that information. We will just be delivering it to you five days a week rather than six.

Many transformations in our industry have caused us to make this decision. Just as the auto, banking and agriculture industries have faced challenges during these tough economic times, so has the newspaper industry. National publications have been hit particularly hard.

To a lesser degree, this is true on a local level. But because of technology, the Gazette's readership has remained strong, as evidenced by our daily unique online visitors combined with our print readership. The Gazette has always maintained the largest full-time news gathering staff in the area. Our staff attends public meetings, not just when hot issues cause a great number of citizens to attend, but we're also there for the tedious budget sessions and the mundane policy reviews.

Historically, our Saturday paper has been one of our weakest days for advertising, and the rising cost of putting it together, printing it and distributing it to the reader is just too high to continue, especially in the current economic climate the nation is facing.

Couple that with the fact that news is sometimes in short supply between the time we go to press for Friday's paper (noon on Friday) and the time we start working on Saturday's edition (12:01 p.m. on Friday). Sometimes there just really isn't a lot more to report.

Changes like this can generate a lot of questions, which we will try to address here.

What about coverage of Friday night games? We will continue to cover Friday night games and all other weekend events. Our goal is to produce an expanded sports section on Monday, complete with color photos. The Gazette has two of the best sports photographers in the state, Grant Strunk and Connie Discoe. Delaying coverage of Friday night games until the Monday edition will allow us to showcase their photography in full color and will give our area athletes even greater exposure. It will allow us to contact coaches and provide you with better information about the games. We will update our Web site on Friday night with scores and photos of the games we are covering.

What about the "Milestones Page" and "Mike at Night"? The "Milestones Page" featuring weddings, engagements, anniversaries, and birthdays will be published each Friday. Mike Hendricks' column, "Mike at Night," will also appear on Fridays. In fact, our Friday edition will become the "Weekend Edition," with expanded content.

What about subscription rates? Subscription rates will remain the same. Had we continued publishing a newspaper six days per week, subscribers would have faced a significant increase in subscription rates in 2009. By eliminating a publishing day, we will be able to leave subscription rates at their current level.

What if you've paid in advance for a specific period? Your subscription will be extended so that you get the same number of issues you had originally paid for. For instance, if you are currently scheduled to expire on March 31, we will extend your subscription by 10 publishing days - the number of Saturdays we have eliminated from your original payment. Your new expiration date would be April 14.

When will the change take effect? Your last Saturday paper will be dated Saturday, Jan. 17, Beginning Jan. 24 there will be no more Saturday editions.

The decision to not publish on Saturdays was somewhat gut-wrenching for the entire Gazette staff. But at the same time, we must recognize the significant forward strides we have made in recent years.

The Gazette's Web site gives subscribers and non-subscribers access to important information about McCook and the surrounding area. Because it is updated continuously, it is the most popular site in our area.

We're no longer limited to disseminating information without immediate feedback. Online visitors are able to post comments about the stories they read, both in print and online.

We're no longer limited to choosing just one or two photos of an event to share with the rest of the world. We can publish all of our photos online, giving visitors the opportunity to share those photos with their family and friends.

We're no longer limited to telling a story through written words and still photos. We can now use audio, video, and slideshows to tell the story on our Web site, and it's available at the convenience of the online visitor.

We're no longer limited to delivering the newspaper through carriers or mail. Subscribers can now have access to an online version of the complete newspaper which is immediately available every afternoon. In fact, the past 30 days of the newspapers are always available online, eliminating the need to search through old editions if you want to look for a story that was published on a previous day.

The newspaper industry is coping with transformation that brings opportunities. The staff of the Gazette is dedicated to seizing those opportunities for the people and businesses of Southwest Nebraska and Northwest Kansas. We urge you to call the Publisher, Shary Skiles, at (308) 345-4500 or 1-(800) 269-1426 and tell us how we can better serve you.

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  • You've done a marvelous job, keep up the good work. In these times it's a wonder any small businesses are operating. It's a small price to pay to have a truly independent source operating. I'm sure I speak for all your great full readers that its a small price to pay to have a fully independent on the job, and, scoop.

    Thanks Much, Best of Luck

    -- Posted by Dividedude on Wed, Jan 7, 2009, at 7:05 PM
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